Let's Make Clamps! Or Buy Them Complete...Your Choice!

Posted by Tobias Lochner on

Question #1:

Do you have any decent scraps of hardwood lying in your offcuts bin that you really don't have a use for, but simply can't bring yourself to throw away or use to start your braai?

Question #2:

Do you always find that you never seem to have enough clamps at hand at that crucial glue-up moment?

Question #3:

Have you ever had the need for really versatile clamps for clamping odd shaped objects, clamping round objects, clamps for holding narrow workpieces vertically on your drill press, and clamps for offset work?

If You answered yes to even one of the above questions, then this blog post is for you.

The above image is the only one that I can find for a patent filing on an adjustable multi-purpose wooden jaw clamp. This patent was awarded to H. Jorgensen on 3 December 1901.

This US patent has long run out and the Jorgensen brand has been bought out along with Pony Clamps by the Greatstar Co. in China.

I have twelve of these clamps made by Jorgensen and they have been absolutely indispensable to my woodcraft since I imported them about 25 years ago. They are battle scarred and have overcome many clamping  issues for me, so I was extremely sad to hear of the demise of the famous Jorgensen Clamp.

In fact all twelve are currently on loan to a very good friend for his new workbench build. (which I shall blog about as soon as it is complete).

I have been badgering Brian for nearly a year to source a high quality brand of these types of clamps (which are more commonly known as Hand Screws)  and he eventually (after months of trying) connected with a wonderful husband and wife team in the tiny town of Dubuque in Iowa in the USA. 

Dubuque Clamp Works, Iowa, USA

Keith and Edna Clarke of Dubuque Clamp Works are extremely difficult to get hold of. This small company does not have a website and the closest they want to be to the internet is a Gmail address, They also prefer to talk to their clients- the old fashioned way. They have three employees and produce Hand Screw Clamps at their pace and in small order quantities.

 

         Keith Clark                                                                           Edna Clark

Their clamps are truly beautifully made and really detailed attention is paid to every part of the manufacturing process.

Here is an amazing fact about Dubuque Clamp Works that I still can't get my head around: 60% of Keith & Edna's production is exported.......to South Korea!

BPM Distributors has acquired the agency and distribution rights for Southern Africa for Dubuque Clamp Works products. This is great news for all of us!

Not only does BPM Toolcraft currently have good stockholding instore and online, of the 4" 8" 12" and 14" versions of the Hand Screws, but also have the hardware kits for 4",8", 12" and 14" in stock so that you can make up your own clamps as needed. (See Question #1)

  

The Imperial classification of 8" for example, traditionally describes the jaw length of the Hand Screw. The Dubuque Clamp Works Hand Screws and Hand Screw Hardware Kits are available in 4",5", 6" 7" 8", 10", 12", and 14".

                                               

My own range consists of 4", 8" 10" and 12" Hand Screws and these sizes have successfully covered me for my clamping needs for years. Brian assures me that Toolcraft will increase the line-up to include the 5", 6", 7"and 10" Hand Screws in the coming months. 

Dubuque Clamp Works brand their wooden Hand Screws as "Miro Moose". I have no idea why this name was chosen, and Keith and Edna aren't telling.

So, whether you ask for "Dubuque Hand Screws" or "Miro Moose Hand Screws" or  "the most versatile woodworking clamp in the world" they are the same thing.

         

There are so many things you can do with a Hand Screw,  over and above it's standard capabilities, that you simply cannot achieve with any other woodwork clamp:  you can screw extensions on to it, you can cut notches in each jaw to hold round , or semi-round stock for vertical drilling on a press, you can hold a board on edge for jointing, you can screw blocks onto them for clamping mitres....the list is endless.

Another thing,  if you are doing a glue up in tannin rich woods such as oak, the annoying black oxidisation that occurs with metal clamps coming into contact with the wet glued surface is a thing of the past...no more planing, scraping and sanding to get rid of the Dark Matter!

Using a Hand Screw is counter-intuitive to some woodworkers. The best way that I can describe adjusting the clamp is to think of the two handles as bicycle pedals, grab one handle in each hand....and pedal! The penny will drop immediately.

Hand Screws  are also immensely powerful clamps due to the effective pivoting action of the jaws. They are comparable and in most cases more powerful than standard bar clamps...and the jaws stay square to each other at all times.

And that's not all.......

The Dubuque Miro Moose Hand Screw Clamp kits are a most productive and enjoyable way to make something that we all need in our workshops...more clamps!

These hardware kits are extremely well made and the instructions are quite easy to follow. It is not necessary to stick to the absolute jaw lengths when you make your own clamps, 30mm-40mm longer will make no difference to the remarkable strength of your clamps, as long as you use decent close grained hardwood. I have successfully made them in Cape Chestnut, Hard Maple, Bubinga, Red River Gum (Rooi Bloekom) and a few others.

In these kits you get the two cold drawn steel bars, each with left/right thread combinations, four barrel cross nuts, two steel ferrules and two high tensile ferrule pins. All you need to do is make a pair of handles,and a pair of jaws and you have another clamp in you arsenal!

So why not also join the growing AHC (Association of Happy Clampers), use up your offcuts and have some productive fun in the process.

Until next time, let's make shavings, not dust!

 

 

 

 


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6 comments

  • This is a great blog post Guy! Beautifully written. Lots of great info.

    I’ve got a stack of wooden hand screws and they are my go to clamps for jigs and holding down fences etc, love them. It’s great to have a nice selection of large and small. I love the little 4” baby ones for holding small things and even for use at the drill press.

    Brian on
  • mmm … I see some Cherry clamps in the future … :-)

    Brian on
  • Robin, Thanks for your kind words. Wooden Hand Screws are very easy to make. I usually scratch for enough wood of a given species to make at least a pair of clamps at a time. I quite enjoy have various woods on my clamp rack, as a specific pair (or more of clamps) tend to remind me of the furniture piece from which the wood came. Only once one has used wooden Hand Screws, do you actually realise the immense power that this traditional design on clamps can exert without much effort on the part of the user.

    Please would you also send me pictures of your clamp build and the finished Hand Screws, I would love to see the results.

    Tobias Lochner on
  • Thanks for the positive comment. James, I wonder if you would send me some pictures of your build process and the finished clamps? I agree completely that your drill press table MUST be absolutely accurately set up! I also think that a simple angled wood scrap jig on the press would help a lot for the boring of the initial angled holes for the slots. This way, one does not have to reset the table to an angle, but simply would clamp the jig to the already accurate drill press table. Repeatability is then dead easy. Thanks again for interacting of the post.

    Tobias Lochner on
  • The hand screw kits are great. I’ve bought some and completed 4 already. The instructions are easy to follow and in the end very satisfying to manufacture.. Just one tip, make sure all your wood is square to start with and your drill press table is perpendicular to your drill bits

    James on

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